Fire licked so close this week to the beehive we manage for City Open Space that leaves on the cottonwood tree above were singed. Ouch!
It was a 5 acre fire that torched a chunk of the riverfront forest (that’s “bosque” if you’re from New Mexico) burning down the entire field of trees next to the beehive and starting a grassfire just yards away. Driving up to the hive, once the area was open to access again, we had no idea what to expect — did the bees abscond? Did honeycomb just melt off its foundation?
Surprisingly, the girls were buzzing along seemingly oblivious to the smoldering forest and the hive itself was filled with combs of honey and worker brood. We sampled a buttery chunk of honey, half expecting it to taste like smoke but it was pure and warm and… to its proud keepers, perfect.
We packed up our gear soothed by this amazing survivor hive. And I swear, as we pulled away, the bees were bearding in the shape of the Virgin, like any other modern day miracle,
Inspired by Bush Bees, we decided to ignore the standard admonition about losing bees if you moved your hive more than 2 feet but less than 2 miles. (The rule of thumb is that if you’re moving your bees across the yard more than 2 feet, you’ll need to move them temporarily out 2 miles away so they don’t fixate on the old location.)
Too much damn work.
Instead, when a neighbor seemed fearful about a hive near his fence, we happily offered to move it on the other side of the yard… that same night.
Ventilation is not what most new beeks consider when crafting their first bee hive. But that’s just what Sonoma beekeeper, and my personal favorite philosophe des abeilles, Serge Labesque recommends to keep your hives healthy.
After 2 seasons keeping bees, I couldn’t agree more. Even in the American Southwest, known for being dry as a bleached cattle bone, I find condensation, mildew, and even lichens each spring after opening our hives. To me, the girls don’t need more insulation, they actually need less.
In fact, a survey I conducted with local beekeepers in 2010 shows that nearly twice as many beeks winterize their hives by ensuring there’s adequate ventilation than by suffocating their dames with a downy blanket.
From the 2010 Albuquerque Beekeepers Survey
But Serge Labesque takes ventiliation to a whole ‘nother level by leaving his hive bodies unpainted, save for the joints. As he described at last year’s NM Beekeeping Summer Seminar, the idea is that unpainted wood can breathe, allowing the bees to have more control over ventilation. Here’s what Labesque’s hives look like.
And so voila! We’ve decided to go au naturel this season, leaving our new boxes unpainted. We simply bought unassembled hive bodies from Mann Lake, uncorked a bottle of champagne one Friday night and set to work.
The local pollinator posse took a break from beekeeping this weekend to visit a small organic farm in Albuquerque’s South Valley. Hosted by Amanda and Eli from Chispas Farm, we dug our feet into the warm dirt and walked rows of garlic, asparagus, fennel, and freshly-planted heirloom tomatoes all nurtured with love and wisdom by their caretakers, two self-described “born again farmers.”
Find more beekeeping events in Albuquerque
It’s what every beekeeper loves to see — fresh eggs in an uncertain hive.
The queen is a-laying.
For newbeeks, the black Ritecell foundation makes it easier to find eggs when hunting around your hive. In this case, the sign of a fertile queen is unmistakable.
[View the full slideshow]
Despite a 60% chance of thunderstorms threatening to ruin our day like a bad breakfast burrito, our hands-on spring demo was perfect — warm, friendly, and informative. Thanks to the 25+ local beekeepers who donned a veil and came out for the afternoon. And big ole thanks to Steve Cox for sharing his roomy backyard.
Visit our group at http://abqbeeks.ning.com.
Albuquerque beekeepers gather to talk shop.
Fellow Albuquerque beeks, our first meeting of the season is tomorrow! Get details and RSVP.
Tomás Urrea (The “Biopark beekeeper”) will be sharing ideas for how to make hive splits. Learn more about Tomás
And we’ll also talk about “what to do now in your hives.”
This meeting is FREE and casual. Bring honey for tasting if you’d like.
Soon, beekeepers in New York City may no longer be breaking the law.
After months of prodding from rooftop beekeepers and proponents of community agriculture, the Department of Health on Thursday took the first step toward removing honey bees from a list of animals that residents are prohibited from raising within the five boroughs.
Read more at: http://www.onearth.org/article/nycbees
This here’s a little tale about how we supered our top bar hive. Yep, I hear the purists cringing and the aesthetes too. And they’re right — we’ve got a Frankenstein on our hands.
All super-ed up and ready to grow
Why did we do it?
The Kerry hive is full beyond belief — every bar is packed with honey, pollen, and fresh worker brood. No matter how many bars I harvest, the girls are drawing more within a short week or two and showing no signs of a slow down. It’s a full house.
So, rather than fight the gift of a madly productive hive, we’re rolling with it.
How did we do it?
First, let me admit it’s all my partner’s idea.
He’s obsessed with Langstroth hives and secretly bought a couple to “experiment with.” Next thing I know, I hear myself saying it’s OK to add Langstroth honey supers to a top bar hive which, were I sober or not in love with him, I’d have thought the most perverse of sins.
So here’s what we did:
- Remove one bar from the back of the hive
- Cut spacers about 3/8 inch (enough to allow “bee space”)
- Put spacers between bars at the back of the hive
- Place an empty super on top of the spaced bars at the back of the hive
- To provide evenness for a cover, place an empty super at the front of the hive (there’s no space yet between the bars underneath this super)
- Place a cover on top of both supers
And here’s the photo essay version…